Entertainment

How Wang Jianlin, Mega-Billionaire Turned Movie Mogul, Plans To Make Qingdao, China, The New Hollywood

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The richest man in China plans to become one of the world's biggest movie moguls as well. Wang Jianlin took a significant step toward that goal Sunday when he unveiled his $8.2 billion “Oriental Movie Metropolis” project.

If Wang — whose personal fortune is estimated at $22 billion — gets his way, get ready to sing, “Hooray for Qingdao!” Because that coastal Chinese city of almost 9 million people could overtake Hollywood as the movie production Mecca.

Wang is already a power player in the movie business. His company Dalian Wanda Group counts the AMC movie theater chain among its many holdings. When he unveiled the “Movie Metropolis” project on Sunday, he lured a roster of big Hollywood names, including John Travolta (pictured), Nicole Kidman, Leonardo diCaprio and Catherine Zeta-Jones to help him show it off.

Big-time power players from Sony, Universal and Warner Bros also showed up. Wang’s company says it already has deals for 30 movies to shoot at the new complex.

By the time the project is set to be finished in 2017, the “Metropolis” will have 20 movie sound stages, including the world’s first one built entirely underwater. The 58-year-old Wang’s vision also includes a yacht club with 300 berths, seven hotels and a massive shopping mall with an indoor amusement park, all designed to make Qingdao a draw for the overseas movie business.

“The Oriental Movie Metropolis is a major step in China's strategy to become a global cultural powerhouse,” Wang said.

The billionaire’s company also owns 72 “Wanda Plaza” shopping malls, 40 five-star hotels, 62 department stores -- and 68 karaoke centers. In addition to the AMC chain of movie houses, which he purchased for $2.6 billion last year, Wang also shelled out $17 billion for Sunseeker, the world’s largest yacht manufacturer.

There’s a Hollywood connection there, too. Sunseeker designs many of the yachts seen in James Bond films.

But will Hollywood embrace Wang the way he has leaped into the movie business? According to Hollywood’s hometown paper the Los Angeles Times, even though the major studios, as well as top talent agencies, sent representatives to Sunday’s ceremony, none of them have cut deals with Wang’s company yet.

And the movie stars who lent their glamor to the occasion? They were paid handsomely just to show up, the Times reports.

SOURCES: CNN Money, Los Angeles Times, Reuters